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Bakesale Betty - It's all true!

Because of great reports from this board, I decided to drive from SF to Oakland today to try Bakesale Betty. It all looked so good, I wanted to try one of everything. There were 3 kinds of scones (I got the raisin), got a pecan shortbread cookie, and the fried chicken sandwich. I was eying the strawberry shortcake but decided I'd try it another time. They had many cases of beautiful aromatic peaches that they were making up for pie. I decided to get 2 slices to go; they said they'd bring it to me as soon as the pies had cooled off a bit.
While I ate some of the sandwich, an employee came to me with the shortcake, saying it was on the house; I was amazed. (Glad I'd brought a cooler with blue ice so that I could bring most of it home.)
When I went to get the slices of pie, the owner handed me a whole pie in a box and said it was for me -- that that's how she promotes her business. I have never before seen such generosity. Everything was wonderful!!

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  1. you're preaching to the choir. I love BB, I've been back several times though I've yet to try the chicken sandwiches. I have a hard time getting there before they run out.

    1. BB is like a crack cocaine dealer...free samples and she knows you're hooked, forever. Seriously, it is a very generous touch and I'm just glad I don't live close by.

      BTW, I had the fried chicken sandwich finally. I can only make it late in the day so they're usually out. Even after sitting awhile, yeah...they're all that...and I'm not a fan of chicken breasts. It must have weighed a pound.

      10 Replies
      1. re: ML8000

        Gregoire had a fried chicken sandwich on their menu a couple of months back. Can anyone comment how these compare?

        1. re: mwtrx67

          No, but I'll bet that Gregoire's was not on a big submarine-sandwich-type roll and was not stuffed with two cups of cole slaw.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I had the fried chicken sandwich from Gregoires, and it looked very similar from the pictures I've seen of BakeSale Betty's. I believe Gregoires had coleslaw as well, but maybe not 2 cups worth.

            1. re: mwtrx67

              I'd be stunned if Gregoire's sandwich is as large. Bakesale Betty uses 1.5 half chicken breasts on each sandwich. We're talking 6-8 ounces of meat per sandwich...before even considering the breading. While I've never had the fried chicken sandwich at Gregoire, I've eaten plenty of Gregoire sandwiches. Based on this experience, I'd say that they average 1/2-2/3 the size of the Bakesale Betty behemoths. Put another way, after a sandwich at Gregoire, I often still have room for a few potato puffs or some soup. After a sandwich at Bakesale Betty, I have to put the strawberry shortcake in the fridge until dinner time. Folks I know with more moderate/reasonable appetites are generally satisfied with a half sandwich and a cookie.

              This is not a knock on Gregoire. I enjoy their sandwiches, and I think that they are generally a more sensible/healthful/approachable size than the Bakesale Betty chicken sandwich...which should not be construed as a knock on the Bakesale Betty sandwich either. The Brobdingnagian proportions of the Bakesale Betty sandwich are totally in keeping with effusive generosity that is the culture of the shop.

          2. re: mwtrx67

            I tried both sandwiches. Overall, they're pretty similar. Gregoire uses a spicy aioli which I like. The coleslaw is neck and neck, both make damn fine slaw. Betty's is definitely larger, but Gregoire fries to order. Of course, Gregoire's sandwich probably wont show up again for at least six months, so the debate is rather moot.

          3. re: ML8000

            The proprietors are two of the nicest people I've ever met, almost weirdly so (my ex-NYer sensibilities are having a hard time adjusting....). Some of their sweets could perhaps stand to be a bit less sweet, but the pecan shortbreads are awesome, the strawberry shortcakes are wonderful, and the ever-popular sandwiches are popular for good reason (though the crust on the fried chicken gets a bit soggy if the sandwiches sit - eat em quickly!). FYI, if you'd rather, it's possible to ask for the fried chicken as "chicken salad", and they'll give you a plastic clamshell full of the cole slaw with the fried chicken perched on top. The chicken potpie, though - woooo..... Nothing fancy or complicated, just tasty as hell, with big chunks of chicken and vegetables in a very chicken-y gravy, and topped with flaky pastry. A tribute to comfort food.

            1. re: Spatlese

              Best eaten right after they're made, I'm sure, but I ate one of those sandwiches at CDG in Paris after a 12-hour flight, and it was still great.

              1. re: Spatlese

                If you know your sandwich will sit a while, it helps to request that they go light on the slaw. The sandwich gets less soggy this way. Not as good as a freshly made sandwich, but still great.

                1. re: lexdevil

                  I have to say, as a rule I don't like coleslaw at all, but I eat every bite of the slaw that's on those sandwiches.

              2. Betty is the best! I'm only worried that success will go to her sweet blue-haired head, but somehow I doubt that it will happen. Not only is her food fabulous, but the vibe is unmatched for sincerity and kindness. If you come to the Farmer's Market at Temescal (DMV parking lot on Claremont Ave.) Sunday mornings, you will receive entire cookies or scones as samples from the Betty acolytes...and you will be so overcome with gratitude that you will buy far more than you can eat. If only the entire world operated by the Bakesale Betty Principles of Life, what a beautiful placce it would be. We love you, Betty, and we are eternally grateful that you selected our neighborhood to grace with your presence.

                3 Replies
                1. re: redchair

                  Well said... the world needs more Blue-haired Bettys! Unfortunately or fortunately, I do not live nearby but it is an easy hop off on the way to work...I love stopping by in the morning...I always start that day with a smile on my face. One treat working nearby is that they DELIVER those yummy chicken sandwiches with a cookie of course.

                  1. re: frangelica

                    I love BB espically the banana bread yum can't wait till this sunday so i can get some more at the farmers market. Also i have never tired the chicken sandwich I will have to keep an eye out for that

                    1. re: frangelica

                      do you know how far they'd be willing to deliver one of those sandwiches? I work clear on the other side of Berkeley on Solano and don't have time to make it out there for lunch.

                  2. how much do this sandwich go for?

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: lexdevil

                        Thx.. available everyday at lunch time?

                        1. re: kc72

                          Yes, generally until 2:00 PM. Can run out earlier if it's crazy busy.

                    1. Am I the only person who has yet to get any samples from BB? I know better than to think I'm entitled to them... but after all the reports of free pie and what not on this board... I'm feeling a little unloved.

                      To date, I've had:
                      Lemon bar - really good - the lemon topping is very tart - I think it has proportionately way less sugar than most lemon bars, which means the filling is looser, so the lemon bars are much thinner than most. Instead of a shortbread cookie base, it's a wafer thin gingersnap base, so the filling to base proportions are maintained.

                      Lamington - this was good.

                      Fried chicken sandwich - I think my expectations were too high - it was a good sandwich. Didn't change my life.

                      Blueberry pie - disappointing - I don't know if I could have distinguished it from a supermarket pie.

                      Almond-apricot scone - not buttery enough - very cakey, and very strong flavor of almond extract.

                      Next up - chicken pot pie, strawberry shortcake, pecan shortbread, ginger cookie.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: daveena

                        I think BB herself (Allison) is the only person who gives out samples...which might explain why. Your chances might be better at the Farmer's Market.

                        BTW, I had the peach pie...excellent...great crust but also no too sweat or syrupy. No "suspending" syrup at all, more like stewed peaches.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          The Sunday Temescal farmer's market is a safe bet for a slice of banana bread or a small lemon scone, they pretty much hand them out as a rule.

                          But it's my experience that all sizable freebies (a pie or banana bread or whatever) come directly from the hands of either Alison or her husband. I have not ever received anything free from anyone else, unless they were directed to do so by Alison or her husband. They are equally generous.

                          1. re: jillyju

                            Nope, I've gotten free stuff before from other people, on at least two occasions, but only when I've already ordered other stuff (and at the shop, not the market). These were only slices of pie, etc, though, not whole things.

                        2. re: daveena

                          I'm with you on the chicken sandwich ... expectations were too high. If you want exceptional blueberry pie, check out Lola's on Solano. Actually, call first, since they don't always have it.

                          1. re: daveena

                            You are most definitely not the only person who has yet to receive a free sample from Bakesale Betty's. I was beginning to feel a little left out as well, and was happy to see your post.

                            I agree about the lemon bars. And pretty much everything else I've tried there has been good, but not "life-changing" as you say. The only item I have really *loved* was the pecan shortbread... delicious.

                            On that note, I will most likely go back when in the neighborhood, but definitely will not make a special trip.

                            1. re: chemchef

                              Another BB patron who has not received any freebies - doesn't stop me from going back, although I'd feel a little put out if everyone else around me was receiving freebies! :)

                            2. re: daveena

                              Nope, I never have received a freebie. I don't like the scones at all (too sweet/I ditto the "not buttery enough"), but I do love everything else I've had. Sticky date pudding and lemon bars are standouts for me so far. Haven't had the fried chicken sandwich yet, but soon.

                              1. re: Atomica

                                My guess is that samples only go out to needy looking slackeresque types...or people who look like they really need to eat. BB has the unusual mix of Berkeley hipster and cool auntie charm...okay, I have no idea...it's probably random.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  Heh. The only times that I've gotten anything free have been when I've been there and it's been almost empty (and when I'm already buying other stuff). At the busy times, I think that it's just too busy in there for them to do anything but grab your food and ring you up.

                            3. Bakesale Betty is wonderful. The chicken sandwiches are great, as is the cole slaw...got that jalapeno bite. Betty doesn't use mayo in anything so her cole slaw and egg salad are vinaigrette-based. Her shortcake shells are great to take home and do with them what you like. But the pre-made strawberry shortcakes are wonderful, too. I think some of her scones and cookies are really good, but I don't ever think about going there for them. It's her sandwiches that draw my friends back. And Betty herself. She is one of the nicest people around and she attracts a staff of really good folks.

                              1. Finally tried BB for the first time last week. I really liked the chicken sandwich. I can see how this sandwich would keep because the crust is very sturdy. Crunchy, but not crispy. I also had a lamington which I loved, but that is not much of an endorsement because I love sponge cake in almost any form.

                                --forgot to say that I didn't get any free samples. I was eating there for 1/2 hour and didn't see anyone get anything for free. BB was busy making sandwiches. I don't know what her husband looks like. Hope you feel better hehe.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: choctastic

                                  The chicken sandwich uses an ACME torpedo right, or is it in-shop baked? I buy them all the time from the SP Ave Berk ACME for sandwiches at home and the BB ones look/taste like an ACME to me. Not complaining mind you, just wondering.

                                  Been to BB four times now in the last few months, usually 1-3pm. Always score a chicken sandwich, struck out twice w/ big/sm chicken pies (I now call ahead for those), and have yet to receive a freebie. All my purchases have been rather large and w/ 'help' (not the owners) and indeed w/ 6-10 other customers in shop, so one of those may be the reason. Or I'm just not freebie worthy. The counterpeople have always been very nice and helpful, never rushing.

                                  I've enjoyed and would buy again everything I have tried so far, but standouts have been the lemon bar, ginger scone, strawberry shortcake and the oatmeal-raisin cookie. I think the various choc-chip cookies are 'just' very good. The lemon bar cookie base was still crisp and good a day plus later! How do they do that?

                                  The place is a gem and waaaaay out of my usual way. Move to N. Berk why don't ya? As if we didn't already have an embarrassment of food riches up here!

                                  1. re: Bookmark

                                    My bad, I should have clarified that I thought the crust on the *chicken* was very sturdy. As for the bread, hmm, I don't know who made it. All I can remember is that it worked well on the sandwich.

                                    1. re: choctastic

                                      Yup, according to this morn's Chron, it is an ACME torpedo.

                                2. hmm...seems like such a hot topic. I think they've been generous with me every time I've gone now (3-4), but I just strike up conversation with whoever is helping me and they just seem to end up offering me something. perhaps friendliness works both ways?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: nicedragonboy

                                    I didn't strike up a conversation with the counter guy last time I was there because they were very busy. Didn't seem appropriate. Just ordering your items in an efficient manner and doesn't mean one is being unfriendly. Actually, the guy I dealt with last time was somewhat brusque, so I felt kind of rushed.

                                  2. OK, I'm just trying to make sure I understand. You ordered 2 slcies of peach pie, among other things, and they gave you a whole pie? How in the world do these people stay in business? How much is a slice? That IS incredible generosity.

                                    1. I'll continue to recommend the apricot-almond scone above all the others I've tried, and the ginger cookie was quite good. My only complaint is everything is too huge.

                                      On my first visit, I received two (!) slices of rhubarb pie from Mr. Betty.

                                      Wasn't as dazzled by the other scones or the shortcake, and haven't snagged a chicken sandwich yet.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Windy

                                        I had that apricot/almond scone for the first time the other day, and I really loved it. That and the oatmeal raisin cookies are probably my favorite things.

                                      2. The good news: You too can make this sandwich at home! http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi...

                                        The bad news: It's nearly 1000 calories

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: 5 and Dime Eater

                                          does betty's have the chicken pot pie daily? i never see it on the menu.

                                          1. re: rnsmelody

                                            These days she does them frozen ready-to-bake (they take around an hour). I haven't had one in a while, but there's no harm in asking. They've certainly been known to have them, even without a sign. Best darned emergency meal back up you could ever have.

                                        2. Is Betty's famous fried chicken sandwich going downhill? With the enormous crowds she gets these days, they've started making them far in advance. The last one I had was dry, greasy and room temperature. A friend had a similar experience on a different day. What do others think?

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                            It pains me to say this, but yeah, I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. The chicken wasn't dry, but it was pretty greasy, and definitely room temperature. I ate less than half of it. I was hoping that it was just because it was Labor Day and a really busy day.

                                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                              I think it might depend on the time one goes. I remember my first sandwich being room temperature, but the recent ones have been fresh and warm. The first visit was a bit early, maybe 11:15am or so, and the rest closer to noon.

                                              1. re: DezzerSF

                                                There might be something else going on. An untrained staff member making the sandwiches? I never was a fan of the fried chicken sandwich. It is (was?) a fine sandwich but for me it didn't live up to the buzz ... and that was in prime time.

                                                That being said, I ate half the sandwich the next day and actually liked it better cold and when the flavors melded more. What impressed me was it held up so well, bun and all.

                                                So, it sounds to me like poor execution rather than time of day. To me it would seem better to run out rather than meet demand if it can't be done well.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  I think that that's part of the problem -- they're making a lot more of the sandwiches than they used to, and they aren't running out anymore, and the execution is suffering.

                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                    I've had the occasional (but rare) dud sandwich, but this goes back a long way. Two or three times I've had an overcooked chicken breast, and hot/warm/cold would have made no difference--the meat was just dry. Once I remember the coleslaw lacking its usual zip, but that was over a year ago. These duds have been infrequent, as I've bought a couple of hundred sandwiches since Betty opened her doors (and I still miss the pork and beef sandwiches). Based on my experience, I'd say that the occasional dud is usually a result of overcooking, and that this is not a new phenomenon. The worst I remember was ages ago, when I first started going there. The duds might correlate with time of day, new staff on the fryer, or just the occasional brain fart. Regardless of cause, they have been, in my experience, extremely rare.

                                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                                      Well, that's good to know, and I think it also be new staff that isn't quite well trained yet -- the past few times I've been in, there have been a lot more staff working in the kitchen, to maybe it'll even out in a little while. In any case, all of the baked goods have still been just as good as ever.

                                                    2. re: JasmineG

                                                      We had our first chicken sandwich experience today and sadly, it was pretty mediocre. The chicken was ok, but really not much flavor. The slaw was bland too. We were more impressed with the free yummy strawberry shortcake they gave us and the "half" peach pie we ordered (which turned out to be a whole pie!). Definitely would go back for the pastries, but will probably pass on the sandwiches going forward.

                                                      1. re: toofacetious

                                                        The slaw NEVER used to be bland. That makes me sad.

                                                        That strawberry shortcake is fantastic.

                                                        1. re: toofacetious

                                                          The FCS I had, the slaw had super thin slices of jalapeƱos mixed in. Not over-powering but definitely not bland. A nice little bite of tang.

                                                  2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                    Yes! Or rather, "Oh, no, YES!" After pumping my out-of-town daughter up with fried-chicken sandwich desire, she drove over and got... dried out chicken on soggy bread. It was at the end of the lunch period but hey, Betty, there's no excuse. We believed you were truly different. So does greatness fade.

                                                  3. Just one warning about that transcendental fried chicken sandwich: Don't try to eat it in a car unless you are wearing a hazmat suit and sitting on a towel. And don't eat it at all while driving.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Curmudgeon

                                                      On a similar note, maybe the only "neat" way to eat a burrito is naked in the bathtub -- no, I haven't tried it. Eating over the kitchen sink usually works for me.

                                                    2. It really seemed like Bakesale Betty can do no wrong! I popped over there for some baked goods after lunch at Asmara today & got to taste perhaps the BEST lamington I've ever had!

                                                      Lamingtons are just about as Australian as brownies are American. I lived for 12 years in Australia (7 years in Perth & 5 in Sydney) but had never, ever tasted a single lamington as good as the one I had from Bakesale Betty today - nowv how is that even possible?! (eventhough I did know that Alison Barakat's Aussie)